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Johnson's Russia List
 

 

December 24, 1999    
This Date's Issues: 3707   3708  




Johnson's Russia List
#3707
24 December 1999
davidjohnson@erols.com


[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Guardian (UK): Jonathan Steele, Boxing clever. The startling results 
of the elections can be traced to the shocking bias of the media.

2. BBC MONITORING: ELECTIONS POINT RUSSIA TOWARD 'SOFT DICTATORSHIP' - 
NEWSPAPER Segodnya.

3. AP: Russian Army Said Looting Villages.
4. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Consumers Rediscover Domestic Products.
5. Roger Hamburg: #3706/Chechnya.
6. Timothy Colton: Commentary on elections.
7. Tom de Waal: Comment on Ware, JRL 3704.
8. Itar-Tass: COMMUNIST'S Son and REFORMER'S Father Dies in Moscow.
(Timur Gaidar)

9. Moscow Times: Viktor Rodionov, Voting Brings Us Hope.
10. Financial Times (UK): Andrew Jack, Citizens take gamble with votes.
11. Bloomberg: Russia's War in Chechnya Too Costly, World Bank Directors 
Warn.

12. Reuters: Democracy takes root in ex-Soviet states.
13. IntellectualCapital.com: Richard Pipes, Portents of the Russian 
Election.]

******


#1
The Guardian (UK)
23 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Boxing clever 
The startling results of the elections can be traced to the shocking bias of 
the media
Jonathan Steele in Moscow 
Jonathan Steele was an observer for the European Institute for the Media. 
Not all of the views expressed here are the institute's. Its findings are on 
its website: www.eim.de 


If there was any hope that last Sunday's vote for the Russian parliament 
might end the bombing of Chechnya, the poll's shock result has killed it. As 
they freeze in the railways wagons which pass for shelter in Ingushetia or 
huddle in fear in the basements of Grozny, the civilians of Chechnya now know 
they are doomed to six more months of hell. So too are Russia's conscripts. 


The Kremlin's political strategy has been so stunningly successful that it is 
bound to continue until the presidential elections next summer. Why should 
Boris Yeltsin's advisers, the small group of cynical men known as the 
"family", abandon a mechanism which has done so well on its first trial? 


With astonishing brilliance prime minister Vladimir Putin and his cronies 
exploited the widespread desire for revenge after the terrorist bombings in 
Moscow and other cities in September. First, they used it to justify a 
full-scale war on Chechnya. Then they created an electoral instrument which 
hijacked the campaign agenda. 


The issues which Russians never stop discussing in their kitchens - the 
social effects of the criminalised privatisation process, the collapse of the 
public health service, the corruption of government officials, and the 
bankruptcy of vast swaths of industry - were cast aside. 


Imagine a party which emerges out of nothing two months before voting day, 
has no manifesto, publishes no proposals, and avoids debating its opponents. 
Obviously a non-starter, you would say. 


Not in a country where the two main television networks are in the hands of 
the very men who created this phantom party. Known as Unity and with a bear 
as a symbol, it has almost no existence beyond the television screen. 


When Yeltsin was re-elected president three years ago, after starting the 
campaign with a public opinion rating of less than 10%, observers from the 
EU-financed European Institute for the Media criticised the massively 
one-sided coverage on state television. This time, monitors not only noted 
similar bias. They also denounced the overwhelmingly dirty coverage. 


On ORT, the biggest channel, Unity got twice as much news time as 
Fatherland-All Russia, the main centrist block. While the pro-Putin block's 
mentions were consistently positive, the reporting of Fatherland was loaded 
with negative comment. In 1966 ORT suppressed the news that Yeltsin had 
suffered a heart attack four days before the voting, but this time it 
unashamedly repeated the claim that Fatherland's leader, 70-year-old Yevgeny 
Primakov, was too old and ill to be credible. ORT also gave disproportionate 
and largely favourable coverage to the ultra-nationalist Vladimir 
Zhirinovksy, who usually supports the Kremlin in the Duma. The government 
feared his party might not get over the 5% barrier needed for seats in 
parliament. 


Russia's long-running economic crisis has taken a hard toll of the country's 
national newspapers and their circulation is barely 10% of the 1990 level. 
Although their influence is much smaller than television, they reflected the 
same kind of bias. It even shocked some government officials. Vladimir 
Grigoriev, the deputy minister for press, televison, radio and mass media, 
told the monitors: "No one expected such a violent and fierce campaign or the 
use of such unimaginably dirty tricks." 


As the results emerged, Anatoly Chubais, the millionaire businessman who 
masterminded the privatisation process, was quick to put out the spin which 
the Kremlin hopes western governments will lap up. For the first time since 
1989, Russia will have a parliament not dominated by the Communist party so 
the poll was another successful step in the transition, he said. His remarks 
were a ploy to move the goalposts, since the election campaign had not been 
about communism. 


Moscow's quiet band of war opponents hoped for a strong showing by Fatherland 
in the belief that the apparently monolithic facade in favour of the war 
could split once the election was over. During the campaign Yevgeny Primakov 
gave cautious hints of a change of line. He urged the government not to let 
the bombing of Grozny alienate Chechen civilians and lose Russia its western 
friends. 


The Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov was deliberately ambiguous. He 
criticised Yeltsin for the "criminal" decision to launch the first Chechen 
war and said women and children must not suffer. But he also said terrorists 
must be stopped and "we must support our forces". It was enough of a platform 
from which, after the election, to attack the government and insist on a 
ceasefire. Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the centrist faction Yabloko, had 
called for negotiations. Their stands gave a chance for a centre-left 
alliance in the Duma to form an anti-war front later. 


Thanks to state television's biased election campaign, that now looks doomed 
. The west should not allow simplistic anti-communist instincts to blind it. 
This was not a victory for "democrats" and "reformers". It was ruthless media 
manipulation by the war party. 


*******


#2
BBC MONITORING
ELECTIONS POINT RUSSIA TOWARD 'SOFT DICTATORSHIP' - NEWSPAPER
Source: `Segodnya', Moscow, in Russian 21 Dec 99


According to an article in the Russian newspaper 'Segodnya', the people who 
voted for the Unity movement and the Union of Right Forces in the 
parliamentary elections "do not have any ideology but love toughness". These 
people regard Prime Minister Putin as tough and want to see him as next 
president. The article says that this may result in "soft dictatorship" in 
Russia. The following is the text of the article published on 21st December:


So the authorities for the first time since I don't know when have achieved 
the almost impossible - if not a majority then at least approximate parity 
with the opposition in the Duma. The Kremlin has elected itself a Duma. How 
has this come about and what will be its upshot?


It came about in the usual manner, in accordance with the principle - 
"there's no fathoming Russia". Caligula made his horse a senator while [Prime 
Minister Vladimir] Putin made a huge pack of hungry bears [members of the 
Medved (Bear) movement, also known as (Interregional) Unity (Movement)] 
deputies. The triumph of a nonexistent and mute party, which explains that it 
does not intend to get involved in such a dirty business as politics, is 
Russia all over. The triumph of a party conceived several months ago is 
simply explained: our idol and prime minister, whom nobody in the country had 
heard of just six months ago, supported it. This too is Russia all over. And 
the fact that these bears from nowhere, not brown or white bears but simply 
bears of indeterminate colour, have declared themselves to be "liberal bears" 
is similarly Russia all over.


The success of the "bears" is an absolutely traditional phenomenon. Like the 
"bears" themselves, the people who voted for them do not have any ideology 
but love toughness [krutizna - "toughness" or "hipness"] and hope for a slow 
miracle while secretly quaking before the authorities. Such is "lumpen 
Russia" (lumpen can also be very rich people). In 1993 they recklessly 
plumped for Zhirinovskiy (miracle plus toughness), in 1996 for Lebed (ditto), 
in 1999 for Unity-cum-Putin (ditto plus power, hence its big success). The 
authorities have finally worked out how to win over "lumpen Russia" to their 
cause: You have to give them an opportunity to finally do what they want, 
give them an opportunity to love the authorities. But for this, the 
authorities have to rejuvenate themselves, become (or appear) tough, and, 
most important, shake off everyone's bugbear, Yeltsin. Which was achieved 
with Putin's arrival.


The success of the URF [Union of Right Forces] can be explained in the same 
manner. The liberals suddenly stopped appearing to be lily-livered 
intellectuals spouting about "Chechens' human rights" but also appeared to be 
tough, "liberals per se". The new liberal packing a patriotic punch is the 
invention of Chubays. Hence the happy support of the happy young people. 
Liberalism suddenly appeared to be fashionable, hip [krutoy]. And, of course, 
the liberals were fielded once more by Putin who also showered them with his 
blessings.


Incidentally, I would not overestimate the mass media's role in the victory 
of Unity and the URF. The power of mud-slinging on television is extremely 
limited (see [Yuriy] Luzhkov's victory in Moscow and [Aleksandr] Nevzorov's 
defeat in St Petersburg).


Be that as it may, the authorities have the "bears," the URF and LDPR-1 
[Liberal Democratic Party of Russia] (Bear could rightfully be called 
LDPR-2). The magnet of victory will also attract many independent deputies.


What will be the upshot of this? It seems that nothing stands between Putin 
and the presidency. Moreover, with such a weak and easily controlled Duma, we 
may get completely authoritarian presidential power, that is to all intents 
and purposes a "soft dictatorship" which abides by all the technically 
democratic and parliamentary procedures. It is very likely that this "soft 
dictatorship" is Russia's only real chance of salvation.


Admittedly, for this, it is necessary for Kiriyenko's head to be attached to 
Bear's body, that is for the right wing to think up the laws and LDPR-1 and 
LDPR-2 to mechanically crank them out. And for this not to happen: "Khakamada 
dancing on a ball" will only turn the spotlight on the gloomy Unity athletes 
and distract them. In short, its shaggy body is represented by the "bears" 
and its brain by the right wing. Will is needed to make it go anywhere. 
Putin's will. Does he have any? And into what will it be directed?


******


#3
Russian Army Said Looting Villages
December 23, 1999
By ANDREW KRAMER

SLEPTSOVSKAYA, Russia (AP) - The Russian soldiers forced their way into 
Visani Bogatirov's house and took his dishes, food, blankets, shoes and a fur 
coat. They stole his car and shot his tractor to pieces. 


Later, the Russians came back and killed his cow, said the 54-year-old 
refugee, sitting on a plank bed in a muddy and drafty tent in the Sputnik 
refugee camp near the Chechen border. 


According to multiple accounts by refugees, human rights workers and local 
police, Russian soldiers have done more than wage war in Chechnya - they have 
been engaged in widespread looting. 


In some towns, soldiers have looted nearly every house, according to Peter 
Bouckaert, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, a New York-based human 
rights group. 


``We've spoken to people whose floorboards were taken'' for firewood, he 
said. 


Soldiers help themselves to just about anything that can be loaded onto a 
truck or a tank, but focus on food, bedding and warm clothes, he said. The 
looting occurs most in villages that resisted Russia's advance, while other 
villages have been left almost untouched. 


The Russian army, for years beset by financial problems and now faced with 
supporting about 100,000 soldiers in the Chechen operation, appears to be 
living off the land, according to refugee claims. 


The underfunded Russian military is short of supplies, soldiers sometimes go 
without food and their clothing often is old and ragged. The abandoned 
villages of Chechnya are an alluring target. 


``You can't have that wide-scale looting and not have the command know about 
it,'' said Bouckaert, who has interviewed hundred of refugees. ``There is at 
least tacit approval.'' 


Bouckaert said allegations of soldiers killing civilians are linked to 
incidents when residents attempted to stop the theft. These include multiple 
refugee claims of more than 20 civilian killings in the town of Alkhan-Yurt, 
near Grozny, in early December, the worst alleged Russian massacre of 
civilians in Chechnya. 


The Russian military says it is looking into some of the claims, but 
generally rejects allegations that troops commit crimes of any sort. 


The looting hasn't escaped the attention of local police, who witness the 
mayhem but do not have authority over army troops. 


Akhmed Khadiev, a policeman at a border post near the village of Novy Redant 
in Ingushetia, a region bordering on Chechnya, said he sees soldiers carrying 
off property in armored cars and trucks. 


``They bring out televisions, building materials, livestock, everything,'' he 
said. 


The experience recounted by Bogatirov was typical of the accounts by several 
refugees. 


Army soldiers came to Bogatirov's house in Banki-Yurt on Oct. 16, he said. 
The soldiers forced him to stand spread-eagled against the wall as they 
loaded food, clothes and household items into an armored personnel carrier. 


``I was quiet so they wouldn't kill me,'' he said. 


The soldiers drove his tractor to a field and used it for target practice 
with a grenade launcher, blowing up the engine. 


The next day, soldiers shot his cow, cut off the hind legs to eat and left 
the rest in a field, he said. 


Unlike many refugees, Bogatirov lodged a complaint. Officials asked him to 
identify the looters, and he pointed them out at a lineup in the street. But 
he says he has heard nothing since and not received any compensation. 


******


#4
Russia: Consumers Rediscover Domestic Products
By Sophie Lambroschini


In recent years, the Russian economy has seen a mini boom in the production 
and availability of domestically manufactured consumer goods. RFE/RL 
correspondent Sophie Lambroschini reports that many Russians see the trend as 
a sign that their market is gradually becoming better adapted to their pocket 
books.


Moscow, 23 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- In 1995 and 1996, one of the Communist 
Party's favorite epithets for reformers was to call them the "Snickers 
generation," implying they had sold out Russia to the West. 


And for many Russians, the charge had resonance. Thanks to the opening of the 
Russian market, every store from the humblest corner kiosk to the newest 
supermarket was flooded with imported foodstuffs. To find a domestic product 
amid the Western labels was so rare that many Russians considered it a small 
triumphant sign that somewhere, despite everything, the Russian economy was 
still working. 


Today, that situation has dramatically changed. Russian-made goods are 
increasingly in evidence, looking and tasting just like their Western 
counterparts. And being a domestic product has become a positive selling 
point. 


"Shock -- that's ours" is the slogan of a chocolate-covered caramel bar 
suspiciously akin to an American one. It is as proudly home-made as another 
product -- "Indian Tea" -- which is suddenly back after disappearing from 
shelves for almost a decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The 
familiar tea is being promoted by an ad promising that it is "the very same" 
as before. 


Economic experts say that the growing presence and success of domestic 
products on the Russian market is the result of both renewed patriotic 
feeling and simple economic logic. 


Oleg Panoff is the executive vice-president of Maxima, one of Russia's main 
advertising and communications firms. He says the locally produced goods -- 
and in particular fast moving consumer goods -- are increasingly becoming the 
advertising industry's best business in Russia. He says the products are 
booming because they are cheaper than Western goods and they appeal to 
Russians who are becoming increasingly brand conscious. 


"The brands that go into this category promise the biggest part of all 
advertisement investments. You still have the mass markets where you buy 
things in big quantities and where the main thing is to buy as cheap as 
possible. But the structure of consumption is changing right under our eyes, 
from month to month. People try to buy familiar brands because they trust 
them. Those that go to the market always buy one vendor's [products]. The 
role of a brand is then played by the vendor. But there will be a moment when 
someone won't want to go to the mass market every time and will go and buy 
the product in a store." Economic studies show that foreign brands are 
steadily losing market share to the new domestic production. According to a 
survey of 14 Russian cities by a German consumer institute, Gesellschaft fuer 
Konsum, the share of foreign brands fell by half over the first nine months 
of this year. 


Analysts say this is the consequence of the August crisis when the food 
market shrank by about 20 percent. While the hardest hit Russian consumers 
relinquished all but bare necessities, another group looked for cheaper goods 
and often found them in Russian products. 


Some Russian products benefited strongly from the switch. Russian toothpaste 
sales boomed 130 percent while imported brands crashed. And while consumption 
of imported yoghurt brands fell by almost 90 percent, Russian yoghurts saw 
their sales slide by just 17 percent. 


But some studies indicate that the move to Russian brands is not just price 
driven. A recent survey by another research group, F-Squared Market Research, 
found that Russian consumers turn to domestic products when they are looking 
for "wholesomeness" as their top priority. By contrast, they turn to Western 
imports when they are looking for qualities such as "dynamism" or "solidity" 
or "uniqueness." 


Meanwhile, Russian advertising agencies say they are racing to catch up with 
the new consumer mood. Panoff says agencies are still far behind their 
Western counterparts in creating ads that appeal to their own countrymen. He 
says part of the difficulty lies in the fact that consumers themselves are 
still in the process of defining what they want from Russian goods -- and 
from the advertisements which sell them. 


"In Russia advertisements either show a kind of cheap popular side, a 
complete archaism, [such as] jumping, dancing [and] playing the balalaika. 
Or, in other cases, they just copy the worst international advertisements." 


The experience of Wimm-Bill-Dann shows how important being a "Russian" 
product is in the new Russian market. The company started out a few years ago 
as one of the first juice-producers in Russia using the brand name 
"Tetra-Pak." At that time, the English sounding name was considered to 
inspire trust. 


But now, Wimm-Bill-Dann is behind a series of dairy products running under 
homey sounding names like "A House in the Country" and "Dearest My Dear." And 
the company is doing well. The daily Moscow Times recently quoted marketing 
agencies as saying Wimm-Bill-Dann now accounts for almost 50 percent of juice 
sales while its milk is popular in 47 percent of the households in larger 
cities. 


Wimm-Bill-Dann's press-secretary, Yulia Belova, tells RFE/RL that while the 
Russian economic crisis hit the company hard in 1998, today its sales are 
going well. She says in the first half of this year it sold almost as much 
juice as during the whole of 1998. The company also started exporting its 
products to the Netherlands and Israel. 


A growing chain of popular restaurants are using similar marketing tactics. 
The warm interior of a Russian izba (log cabin) greets patrons to steaming 
borsch and to pelmeni (Russian ravioli) with sweet cream or vinegar. 


For many Russian consumers, the Russian menus and the Russian ingredients 
spell an affordable evening out. 


Arina Slepova goes to one of the chain restaurants once a month with her 
husband. With their young baby and earnings the equivalent of four hundred 
dollars a month, they can't afford big outings. But the "Russian" restaurants 
offer them a chance to treat themselves. 


Slepova says that three years ago for ordinary people "the only alternative 
to a depressing stolovaya (cafeteria) was MacDonald's". She says the new, 
affordable restaurant chains mean that she and her husband can "really going 
out, with wine glasses, a tablecloth, and metal forks and knives." 


*******


#5
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1999 
From: "Roger Hamburg" <rhamburg@iusb.edu>
Subject: #3706/Chechnya


David, I found Simes's comments interesting re Chechnya. Let Putin know
that they can expect no more money to subsidize the fighting in Chechnya
but not do so so publicly that it poisons the well to a dangerous extent. I
know that mine is not a popular position but we have to maintain some kind
of relationship and resisit the temptation of academic and electoral
posturing. (Chechnya lends itself to both.) Putin says that the fighting
will be over soon. His political fate is on the line. Russian politicians
DO care about what voters think and that is a refreshing break from the
past. The war is popular right now because Russian voters even of the
liberal variety "feel good" as The Wall Street Journal reported in a very
perceptive piece featuring interviews with Chechens and Russian last Friday.


A case can be made that any Russian government had to respond to the attcks
in Dagestan. I have heard rumors that Yeltsin's people planted the
apartment bombs but I don't know if they are true and if anyone knows in
Washington they aren't saying.


I don't think that whatever the calls for Chechen independence there is not
much support for fracturing the Russian Federation the way that there was
to break up the U.S.S.R. A summary of a presentation at Kennan makes that
clear. So there is no basis for Putin fearing a "who lost Russia" chant.
Still,he is on the spot and if there are significant casuaties incurred in
a ground assault on Grozny or significant,prolonged guerrila operations in
the mountains after Grozny is "taken",that is if the guerrillas withdraw in
the face of "force majeure" Putin could sink quickly and with him Yedinstvo.


We have to warn diplomatically, avoid a "who lost Russia" debate, and hope
that Putin and Yeltsin and Sergeev? have made soundings to some Chechen
leaders like their president Mamadov whose inability to control
gangs,marauders,kidnappers,etc since 1996 helped lead to all this.


*******


#6
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1999
From: Timothy Colton <tcolton@fas.harvard.edu>
Subject: Commentary on elections


Goodness, some of this stuff is terrible--bland and self-referential 
descriptions of the obvious being cycled and recycled ad infinitum. None 
of this is in any way your fault, but I believe we'd all be better off if a 
fraction of the effort that goes into instant comment and info pumping went 
into serious research and analysis of Russian and post-Soviet developments.


Tim
Timothy J. Colton
Director, Davis Center for Russian Studies
Harvard University
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138


*******


#7
From: "Tom de Waal" <tomdewaal@hotmail.com>
Subject: Comment on Ware, JRL 3704
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1999


Comment on Robert Bruce Ware JRL 3704


I agree with Robert Bruce Ware that many Western commentaries on the North 
Caucasus have been over-simplistic. But speaking as someone, who has set 
foot in the region several times over the last few years, I would put many 
of his comments into the same category. I am intrigued that Ware has 
co-authored articles with the Dagestani sociologist Enver Kisriev, because 
Kisriev gave a far more ambiguous picture of the situation in the North 
Caucasus in a presentation at the Royal Institute for International Affairs 
in London on 30 November. He spoke in Russian and it would be good to have 
the English text of what he said published here.


At that seminar Kisriev and other North Caucasian specialists confirmed that 
the Dagestani public is broadly supportive of the latest war in Chechnya and 
other speakers from the region confirmed that the whole of the North 
Caucasus was fed up with the lawlessness in Chechnya over the last three 
years. However that view does not seem to extend to politicians and 
specialists. After all they will be the first in line to take the 
consequences, if and when things began to get out of control. All the three 
main North Caucasian leaders Aushev, Dzasokhov and Magomedov, have 
repeatedly called for dialogue with Maskhadov as the first prerequisite for 
sorting out the Chechen issue. In his London talk, Kisriev drew attention to 
the failed meeting between Maskhadov and Magomedov in September in 
Khasavyurt, when Maskhadov was planning to offer a public apology to the 
people of Dagestan for the incursions across the border. He suggested that 
if that meeting had been allowed to take place, it would have made it much 
harder for Putin to justify another invasion of Chechnya. (After the meeting 
was abandoned Putin said that he now "loved" the people of Dagestan, who had 
helped to prevent it happening). Maskhadov remains the only legitimate 
leader of Chechnya and it is simply not true to say that he is "linked to 
organized crime and kidnapping." On the contrary: he struggled for three 
years to combat it, with almost no resources.


The key point surely is that almost the whole North Caucasus, including most 
Chechens, would have welcomed an operation, which sought to deal with the 
1,500 or so armed militants led by Basayev and Khatab and also the kidnap 
gangs of Chechnya (who incidentally are not one and the same thing). Most 
North Caucasians although not most Chechens would have welcomed a cordon 
sanitaire around Chechnya. But this war is something quite different and is 
rapidly turning into a repeat of the last one: a war against the Chechen 
population as a whole. This is due to the brutal and indiscriminate 
behaviour of the Russian generals and their armed forces, who are not known 
for their restraint, racial sensitivity or inclination for peacekeeping. The 
brutality of the operation is merely kick-starting a new cycle of violence, 
destruction and deprivation, which will merely set back even further the 
prospects for long-term political stability in Chechnya - and hence the 
stability of the North Caucasus as a whole.


******


#8
COMMUNIST'S Son and REFORMER'S Father Dies in Moscow.


MOSCOW, December 23 (Itar-Tass) - Timur Gaidar, a well-known Russian military 
journalist died on Thursday of a serious disease. He was 73. 


He was a son of Arkady Gaidar, regiment commander in the Red Army and author 
of popular children's books, and the father of Yegor Gaidar, head of Russia's 
first post-Soviet cabinet. 


As a navy officer, Gaidar served in a submarine of the Baltic Fleet and 
careered up to the rank of rear admiral. Later on he switched to journalism 
and worked as Pravda war correspondent in Cuba and Yugoslavia. He also wrote 
for Moscow News and Izvestia. 


Gaidar was in Afganistan during the war in the 80s as he believed it was a 
must for a war correspondent "to live with troops and write the truth about 
our soldiers." He wrote numerous articles and a few books about that war. 


In his writings, he tried to present an unbiased information about the 
deployment of Russian troops in Afganistan. 


********


#9
Moscow Times
December 24, 1999 
Voting Brings Us Hope 
By Viktor Rodionov 
Viktor Rodionov is a former journalist for Pravda. He contributed this 
comment to The Moscow Times. 


So, we've gotten through another election. A real election, not just plain 
old voting for one choice. Now, we have an unnaturally large choice. This a 
reaction to decades during which the choices were made for us by bureaucrats. 


I recall a time about 25 years ago when I was returning from the Tomsk 
regional Communist Party conference. Next to me on the plane was a Central 
Committee party instructor in that region, and he had a folder on his lap. 


"I'm bringing the committee's findings on a candidate for the Supreme Soviet 
of the Russian Federation," he told me. "It's a young woman, no party 
affiliation, with a higher education. I think she's an adequate candidate." 


His words were unnecessary. Everyone knew how these elections happened. 
Applications were filled out: age, sex, party affiliation, occupation. How 
many women would be in the Soviet, what percentage of the whole would be 
non-party and other statistics were all decided beforehand. These 
requirements would be passed by Moscow to the regional committees, which 
would find candidates fulfilling them. In Omsk, that candidate was this young 
woman. She was the single Communist/non-party candidate listed on the ballot 
and could consider herself elected long before anyone voted. 


In such a system, how to you explain the 99 percent voter turnout? Before 
elections, so-called "agitation collectives" were formed. Each "agitator" in 
the collective was assigned a group of people and it was his responsibility 
to see that all of these people got out to vote. The agitators were required 
to sit at the polling places until their very last voter came. Out of pity 
for these unlucky agitators, most voters would cast their ballots early. 


It was easy then. There was nothing to decide - you just dropped you ballot 
in the box and the authorities did the rest. We called it our "civic duty." 
Nowadays, you have to shore up patience just to read the candidate lists and 
consider who will get your seal of approval. 


To get this approval, candidates have to cultivate their voters. My own 
former representative, Nikolai Gonchar, showered voters with phone calls and 
sent people to come visit and ask us how we were doing. "Do you have any 
problems? Let us help you solve them." As if there hadn't been enough time in 
the last four years of his tenure to help. 


We'd given him that chance. 


In Russia, Duma deputies are often called on by voters to help out in various 
civil matters, such as building maintenance, apartment issues and so on. For 
this, the deputies hold office hours that are usually clogged with people 
hoping for an audience. 


So, a couple of years back, a number of my neighbors and I approached Gonchar 
with some housekeeping questions of our own. Elections were far off, and 
Gonchar was tired and bored. Nothing was solved. Word of his reaction got 
around, and when his people called before the elections asking to help, we 
just laughed. 


My grandson took an active part in these elections. He always has. Throughout 
his childhood, he came along when we voted. Now he's a few years older, and 
his judgments have become more independent. In the last presidential 
elections, he would march around out house repeating the slogan "communism 
will not win." 


But Yeltsin brought no good to anyone and our grandson, through Yeltsin, 
gained an understanding of lies and unscrupulousness. He will have to take 
his own stand: he can either join the hypocrites of this system or call for 
honesty and fairness. Or he can leave the country as thousands of our 
countrymen have. But he has Russia in his blood. 


My family lived abroad for many years, and we had plenty of chances to say 
farewell to our socialist paradise forever. But, unlike many who did leave, 
we saw a place for ourselves in Russia. Even in the worst of times, I 
considered it my duty as a journalist to open peoples' eyes to the world 
around them. The opportunities for this were limited, but they were there. 


We are living in this country at a critical time. It is finally pulling 
itself out of the doldrums that it sunk into after the 1917 revolution. 
Something extraordinary is happening - those things we thought we unshakable 
and constant are being overturned. And this happened because the people were 
ready for a change and made it happen. 


Of course, all is not well in our house - the economic situation is 
depressing and ways out are only just beginning to appear. The democratic 
game shrouding the senile decrepitude of our leader could plunge the country 
into the same abyss it reached in 1917. Its the kind of situation ripe for 
the nationalism of Germany before World War II. 


But we can be proud of this new Russia. It freed itself and other nations 
from the lash of totalitarianism. It let the Germans reunite as one people, 
and it is no longer known as the evil empire. We can hold our heads high for 
that. 


Time has given Russia tasks that it did not see earlier. Russia has the 
opportunity to become a great power indeed - not on the strength of missiles 
but because of the quality of its citizen's lives. It will provoke the 
respect, not the fear, of neighbors - neighbors who will wish to work with 
it, not against it. I believe in this Russia. I am striving for it. 


So what are we taking into the new century? How will we be understood by 
other nations? The seeds of the answer were planted on Dec. 19. 


*******


#10
Financial Times (UK)
24 December 1999
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: Citizens take gamble with votes 
By Andrew Jack in Moscow


Russia may be full of capitalists today, but its citizens took a gamble on a 
Communist victory in last Sunday's parliamentary elections.


In a first for Russia's fledgling internet sector, a Moscow-based company 
offered odds on the parliamentary race in the weeks leading up to last 
Sunday's vote.


Moscow Totalizator said on Thursday that more than 8,000 people had bet in 
the pioneering initiative.


The company's background is largely in taking bets on sports racing, which is 
proving increasingly popular as gambling takes off in Russia's uncertain 
business and political environment.


A number of investment analysts tapped into the betting system on the 
internet over the past few weeks to gain an assessment of how people would 
vote by looking at the changing odds on offer - based on the assumption that 
people might lie to ordinary pollsters, but they would vote in the way that 
they placed their money.


Under Russia's tough new electoral laws, official opinion polls were banned 
four days ahead of election day in an attempt to prevent the voters being 
unduly influenced by each other's views, or by manipulation of the figures.


However, betting continued without any interference by the authorities on 
Totalizator until Saturday lunchtime.


It was only shut down at that time for a very practical reason: against the 
background of the lack of creditworthiness of most Russians, the company 
would only accept bets made by cash transfer to the state-owned Sberbank, 
which closed for business at 2pm on Saturday.


The internet service comes at a time of sharp growth in interest in the web 
within Russia despite the high cost of computers for most ordinary Russians.


Next week for example, Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, plans to convene a 
group of Russian internet experts to discuss the future.


The FSB, the successor body to the KGB, has also actively begun fibre 
surveillance with a new law giving it authority to intercept electronic mail.


Judging by the results of Totalizator's figures, either Communists are 
greater gamblers than their ideology might suggest, or betters voted one way 
but considered that their fellow citizens would vote another.


By the close of betting on Saturday, the odds offered were not far off the 
real results in the election, although the punters favoured the Communist 
party over both Unity and the capitalist reformist SPS alliance.


Totalizator, however finished best of all, taking a 15 per cent commission on 
all bets and claiming to have made a comfortable profits from its 
undertaking. It plans to open odds for next June's presidential race in 
February.


********


#11
Russia's War in Chechnya Too Costly, World Bank Directors Warn

Washington, Dec. 23 (Bloomberg)
-- World Bank executive directors warned Russia its war in Chechnya 
could deplete the government's financial resources and scare away investors, 
a bank spokeswoman said. 


The ``economic, human and social costs of the conflict in Chechnya... could 
be a significant drain on the budget,'' Gina Ciagne, a bank spokeswoman, said 
several of the bank's 24 directors cautioned. 


The directors, meeting last night to discuss the bank's lending strategy for 
Russia for the next 18 months, said financing the war could displace 
``expenditures that are critical for social programs and undermine investor 
confidence,'' according to Ciagne. 


The warning is the latest attempt to push Russia to reconsider its attack on 
the breakaway republic of Chechnya, which the government says is intended to 
root out terrorists. Earlier this month Michel Camdessus, managing director 
of the International Monetary Fund, said he would take global concern about 
the conflict into account when considering an IMF loan of $640 million, which 
has already been delayed for months. 


And foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations last 
week called on Russia to declare an immediate cease- fire. 


`End is Close' 


So far, Russia's leaders have brushed aside those concerns, at least partly 
because the war is gaining in popularity among the Russian people. Russian 
forces are closing in on the Chechen capital of Grozny as air strikes 
continue to pound the city, Russian media reported today. 


``Close, close, the end is close,'' Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said 
yesterday on NTV television. 


The World Bank has been among Russia's biggest backers since the collapse of 
the Soviet Union, having lent $11 billion to the country since 1992. 


The bank's directors last night decided the bank's lending to Russia through 
mid-2001 will increasingly focus on reducing poverty and ``institutional 
barriers to growth,'' such as corruption, Ciagne said. They also approved a 
$30 million loan to Russia meant to help regional governments collect taxes 
and distribute government spending more efficiently. 


A top Russian official applauded that step, saying the bank shouldn't let 
``momentary considerations'' color its policies. 


``It is extremely important for us that in this time of trials on the 
domestic and international scene, the World Bank is discussing measures to 
assist in Russia's economic development,'' said First Deputy Prime Minister 
Viktor Khristenko. ``We think that cooperation with the World Bank cannot be 
influenced by momentary considerations and is intended for a long-term 
perspective.'' 


`Human Tragedy' 


Yet the bank is increasingly concerned that the cost of the war in Chechnya, 
and Russian military spending generally, will diminish the resources for 
fighting poverty. 


World Bank President James Wolfensohn sent a letter Tuesday to Human Rights 
Watch, saying he is concerned about ``the human tragedy that is presently 
unfolding in Chechnya and the lives and opportunities for development that 
are lost as a result.'' 


Yet neither Wolfensohn nor the bank's directors agreed to the human rights 
group's request that the bank hold up disbursement of $100 million in loans 
meant to help the Russian government assess the social impact of selling or 
closing state- owned coal mines. The bank could lend the money as soon as 
next week, Ciagne said. 


Abusive Conduct 


Deciding whether Russia has met conditions to get the loan payments is up to 
the bank management, not its directors. The World Bank has ``not yet reached 
a decision on the disbursement,'' Wolfensohn said in response to a letter 
from Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth. 


``The bank shouldn't finance the abusive and destructive conduct we are 
seeing in Chechnya,'' Roth wrote to Wolfensohn last week. ``Russia's campaign 
in Chechnya violates international law and undermines development, and the 
bank should have no part in it.'' 


The U.S. government, the World Bank's largest shareholder, on Tuesday shelved 
$500 million in loan guarantees to a Russian oil company. Though the 
government said the move responded to commercial concerns, many analysts said 
it was at least partly intended to urge Russia to stop the bombing. 


*******


#12
INTERVIEW-Democracy takes root in ex-Soviet states
By Peter Starck

COPENHAGEN, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Russia's parliamentary election marked a step 
forward in the transition to democracy, which is also taking root in many 
other ex-Soviet republics, a senior Western election observer said on 
Thursday. 


``It is a slow process, like watching the grass grow, but as long as it is 
growing then you are moving in the right direction,'' Spencer Oliver, 
secretary-general of the OSCE parliamentary assembly, told Reuters in an 
interview. 


Oliver, who heads the assembly's Copenhagen-based secretariat, spent a week 
in Russia with an OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) 
team monitoring Sunday's lower house, State Duma, election. 


``For the first time people look at the Duma as a functioning parliament. 
They see it as having power,'' Oliver said. ``We have noted steady 
improvement throughout these four elections over a period of six years,'' he 
added. 


The Communists suffered a setback but remained the biggest party with 113 
deputies in the 450-seat Duma. The pro-Kremlin Unity group, formed a few 
months before the election, was the big winner taking 72 seats, and the 
centre-left Fatherland-All Russia bloc came third with 66. 


Flaws identified by the OSCE and other international election observers 
included strong government media bias in favour of the Unity party, Oliver 
said. ``But even though you had some bias, it (the Russian media) is 
pluralistic,'' he added. 


Observers also saw cases of heavy-handed interference and quashing of 
opposition candidates by some regional politicians. 


``For the first time, the federative nature of Russia emerged in this 
election. Governors and mayors and local officials got deeply involved in the 
campaign. They wanted to send to the Duma people who would represent their 
interests,'' Oliver said. 


RUSSIA BEST, TURKMENISTAN WORST 


The election showed that Russia was moving towards a stable democratic 
system. ``I don't think they are there yet but they have come a lot further 
than anyone would have expected seven or eight years ago,'' he said. 


Russia has the most open and advanced electoral system of the ex-Soviet 
states monitored by the 54-member OSCE. ``In the former Soviet Union, Russia 
and Moldova are the most democratic, not counting the Baltic states...'' 
followed by Georgia and Armenia, Oliver said. 


The OSCE's Central Asian members, lacking democratic traditions, have a long 
way to go. No leader in the region has yet risked his power in open and free 
elections, Oliver said. 


``Turkmenistan shows no signs of moving towards democracy. They have this 
single figure who dominates the scene and does not tolerate opposition,'' he 
said of President Saparmurat Niyazov, the focus of a Soviet-style personality 
cult. 


Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev also poses problems for OSCE election 
watchers, though the other Central Asian nations are ``trying to do things 
that will make them look more democratic, and eventually be more 
democratic,'' Oliver said. 


``You see progress because they want to be accepted and they are trying to 
find ways to reach acceptable standards,'' he said. 


Kyrgyzstan is showing the most positive development and its parliamentary 
ballot on February 20 looks like becoming the first democratic election in 
Central Asia, Oliver said. 


Tajikistan, still grappling with the effects of an exhausting civil war, is 
also trying very hard to move towards democracy, he said. 


*******


#13
IntellectualCapital.com
December 23, 1999
Portents of the Russian Election
by Richard Pipes 


The Russian parliamentary elections are over and the results generally 
matched expectations. The Communists, Russia's best organized party, once 
again won the largest number of votes (nearly one-quarter), although their 
share of the seats has fallen 25%. The next three largest parties, in order 
of votes received have come into existence since 1995. 


The new shape of the Russian Duma


The most successful of these, Yedinstvo or Unity, was created barely three 
months ago by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and is generally perceived as 
representing the interests of the Kremlin. The same applies to the Union of 
Right-Wing Forces. Between them, the two pro-Kremlin parties gained one-third 
of the vote. Fatherland-All Russia, the centrist party headed by ex-Prime 
Minister Yevgeny Primakov and the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, won a 
disappointing 12.6% of the vote. Finally, Yabloko, the only true liberal and 
democratic party, headed by Grigory Yavlinsky, barely qualified to be 
represented in the new parliament.


The outstanding fact of the election is the meteoric rise of Putin, an ex-KGB 
spy and total unknown until a few months ago when Yeltsin nominated him as 
his preferred successor. Putin not only led his fledgling party (formally 
directed by Sergei Shoigu) to a stunning second place, but handily beat all 
potential competitors in the opinion polls that register voter preferences in 
next year's presidential elections.


The Western press, by and large, has hailed these results as positive on the 
grounds that the new Duma will be more pro-government than the outgoing one 
and, hence, more likely to cooperate with the executive. Pleasure was also 
expressed with the fall of the Communist vote. Thus The Wall Street Journal 
expressed satisfaction with the strong showing of the reformers, "54% of 
[the] vote going to centrist or economically liberal parties" the Journal 
said. The New York Times, a bit more cautious, on the whole also found the 
results reassuring.


An unrealized danger


It is true that the good showing of the pro-Kremlin parties enhance the 
prospect of political stability. It is now possible that various reforms and 
legislative bills, previously blocked, will pass; the ratification of Start 
II is one of them.


But to this observer, at any rate, the negatives outweigh the positives. The 
Communists are no longer a danger to Russia. They appeal largely to the 
disgruntled older citizens and the rural poor. Their constituency is steadily 
declining, and they form a permanent opposition party, much as once the case 
with their namesakes in France or Italy. Moreover, they have abandoned calls 
for a return to the Soviet regime, well aware that they are entirely 
unrealistic because it would require a new revolution and civil war. They 
have lost their bearings, vacillating between social democracy and the 
aspiration to reconstruct the Soviet empire.


The real danger to Russia and the rest of the world is Russian nationalism, 
which expresses not so much love of one's country and the willingness to 
sacrifice one's private interests for its sake as it does anti-Western 
xenophobia and imperial ambitions. The good showing of the Putin bloc would 
have been heartening had Unity ran openly on a reform platform calling for an 
end to lawlessness and corruption, accelerated privatization and cooperation 
with the West.


But, in fact, it presented no electoral platform. It ran exclusively on 
Putin's record as conqueror of Chechnya and the first statesman since the 
collapse of the USSR openly to defy world opinion by asserting Russia's right 
brutally to crush the rebellious province. Not long ago he declared that the 
solution to Russia's economic difficulties lay in increasing the military 
budget. Even more ominously he has recently hailed Russian secret police, 
from the Cheka to the KGB, as having "always guarded Russia's national 
interests." His ideal is Russia as a Great Power in the sense of a country 
able to challenge the United States and bully its neighbors. This dangerous 
program greatly appeals to Russians, 78% of whom tell pollsters they want 
Russia to be a Great Power.


Strike one for nationalism


More noteworthy than the good showing of the pro-Kremlin bloc is the poor 
showing of Yabloko, whose leader, Yavlinsky, had the temerity to criticize 
the Chechnya campaign. The voters punished him by cutting his party's Duma 
representation in half.


In Russia, communism is history. The future hovers between democracy and 
aggressive nationalism. As of now, the latter is on the ascendant. 


Richard Pipes is Research Professor of History at Harvard University. In 
1981-82 he served as Director of East European and Soviet Affairs in the 
National Security Council. He is a contributing editor of 
IntellectualCapital.com. 


*******


 

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